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London

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Shoppers and visitors joined the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs on Sunday (4 December) to officially get the festive spirit underway with the switching on of the Brick Lane Christmas Lights.

The family friendly event, which was organised by the council, started at 2.30pm with free activities including live music, carol singers and street entertainment.

The lights were switched on by the Mayor at 5pm, and there was also a range of street food and ‘naughty and nice’ snacks on offer.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs said: “It was great to switch on the Christmas Lights at Brick Lane and meet some of the many families and visitors the area welcomes every year.

“I’d urge everyone to make Brick Lane a destination this Christmas.  Whether you’re looking to find the perfect present or just have a great time, there’s so much on offer in terms of specialist shops, stalls, food and drink.  So with such a wide range of options on offer, there truly is something for everyone.”

Posted on Tuesday 6th December 2016

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The site of a 19th century coal house and the surrounding East Reservoir in Stoke Newington will reopen as a wetland reserve after being closed to the public for almost two centuries.

Closed off soon after construction in 1833, the reservoir slowly developed into a ‘wildlife haven’. The London Wildlife Trust is now restoring the Grade II listed coal house as the visitor hub for a new nature reserve, Woodberry Wetlands, which will open in November.

David Mooney, lead project manager at Woodberry Wetlands, said: “What makes the site special is that it is surrounded by all sides by densely populated urban London, but you feel like you’re in the middle of the countryside.

“It’s a huge open wetland nature reserve that just looks like it’s been landed from the middle of the countryside into the middle of London.”

The coalhouse, once also used as a kitchen to serve the New River Company directors’ dining hall nearby, was suffering from significant structural damage after the profitable company abandoned the site in the early 19th century.

Thanks to grants of almost £40,000 received from the Association for Industrial Archaeology and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the London Wildlife Trust will transform the building into an education and training hub with a café and a roof terrace to admire the views on the wetlands.

At Woodberry Wetlands it will be possible to observe and study wildlife in its natural habitat. The reservoir is home to reed buntings, great crested grebes, dragonflies and kingfishers among many other wetland animals.

Mooney highlighted that the project will add to the Borough of Hackney ‘12 hectares of amazing wildlife and nature that is free for people to visit’. There is only one catch: in other to protect the wildlife, no dogs will be allowed.

Woodberry Wetlands will open in November 2015, with a special public launch and celebration in spring 2016. For more details, click here

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Three of South Africa’s most prominent boxers feature on an entertaining international tournament in East London on Friday evening (live SS 9 from 7pm).

Promoter Andile Sidinile has enticed two former world champions, both of whom hail from the boxing-rich province, plus hot prospect Xolisani Ndongeni, for one of 2015’s best fight cards.

Topping the bill is big-punching southpaw Zolani Tete. The former IBF flyweight and super-flyweight champion hasn’t boxed since his devastating knockout of Paul Butler in March.

Tete relinquished his championship in the aftermath, but he remains determined to fight at elite level. His original opponent on Friday got knocked out two weeks ago, forcing a late change.

In steps Mexican Olguin Ramirez Diuhl, who has never fought outside his home country and will be in deep water against Tete.

Ndongeni, from nearby Duncan Village but now based in Johannesburg, will have his first fight since beating former champion Mzonke Fana a few months ago. He is likely to receive a rapturous welcome from his home fans.

Miguel Angel Escalada of Buenos Aires has a patchy record, but he’s won seven of his last eight and will be aware of the pressure on Ndongeni to produce the goods in his hometown. Ndongeni tends to blow hot and cold, but he must shape up on Friday if he is to move confidently towards a title shot in 2016.

Southpaw Nkosinathi Joyi is a highly regarded former world champion who enjoys huge popularity in the Eastern Cape, but his good form has deserted him – he has four defeats in his last six fights – and he desperately needs to demonstrate that he isn’t a shot fighter.

His opponent, Sinethemba Magibisela, looks tailormade, but will use this opportunity to escape the journeyman ranks.

Also on the undercard, crowdpleaser Giovanni Bushby, who fights for former champion Vuyani Bungu, has just come through an epic two-fight thrill ride with Dowayne Combrink. His challenge for the WBA Pan-African belt against Johannes Sallie is likely to be no less entertaining.

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This was the scene today after a driver allegedly collided with a police officer while trying to flee the law on a major east London road.

The policeman was taken to hospital following the dramatic smash just before noon in Commercial Road, Limehouse, with leg and back injuries, though he has since been discharged.

The crash reportedly saw a white car hit the officer – who was on foot at the time – before striking a police car and then hitting another vehicle.

It then ploughed into a Ladbrokes betting shop and a set of traffic lights after mounting the pavement.

Scotland Yard said the car had been parked up when the constable attempted to speak to the driver during a routine patrol in Pitsea Street, just off Commercial Road.

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Police have launched a murder investigation after a pensioner was stabbed to death and two children also suffered stab wounds.

Police were called to a house in Huddleston Close, Tower Hamlets, on Sunday evening where they found five people suffering from various injures, including a two-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl with stab wounds.

A 13-year-old boy with minor injuries was also found.

A 79-year-old man was taken to hospital suffering from stab wounds but died later in the evening.

All three children were taken to an east London hospital where their conditions are described as stable.

A 31-year-old man, who neighbours say is the son of the pensioner, is in hospital being treated for self-inflicted injuries and he has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Aysha Khatun, 40, who lives next door, said she heard screaming and shouting for about 15 minutes before police arrived.

Mrs Khatun said: “They weren’t really arguing, they were shouting ‘calm down, calm down’.”

She said she heard people shouting “check if Dad is okay”.

Her husband had spoken to the 31-year-old a few weeks ago about problems he was having at work, she added.

“He said he was getting bullied at work. My husband said to me ‘He doesn’t look too well’,” she said.

The dead man has not been formally identified but his next of kin have been informed and a post-mortem will be carried out.

Mrs Khatun described her elderly neighbour as a “lovely man” who, until a recent accident, would walk to the local mosque five times a day for prayers.

“He would jog around the garden, joking and smiling at us. My two boys play boxing in the garden and he watches and jokes with them,” she said.

Another neighbour, Natalie Anderson, 34, said the pensioner was a “really quiet man” and called the whole incident “horrendous”.

Detectives from the Homicide and Major Crime Command are investigating and Scotland Yard said officers are keeping an open mind regarding motive although they are not looking for any other persons in connection with this incident.

Another neighbour, Tasha, 37, said: “The policeman carried out the baby and you could see where he had been stabbed. He had a bloodstained top. The other two children walked out.”

She did not hear the initial incident but went outside after seeing police and paramedics arrive.

Other neighbours also spoke of their shock.

Helen, who has lived on the road for 23 years, said she had seen the 31-year-old man the day before the incident.

“I waved and spoke to him on Saturday. He joked with my husband about having a drive in our Jaguar. He was always smiling, a nice man.”

She said the 31-year-old used to play football with her son and the family had moved to the property when it was first built 23 years ago.

She added: “There has never been any trouble. The old man was very quiet.”

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People escaped serious injury and death this weekend after a house was “peppered” by shotgun fire.

Essex Police have appealed for information after the shotgun was fired at a property in View Close, Chigwell, just after 2am on Saturday (August 22).

The police were called after reports of a window being broken and the sound of gunshots.

The front of the house was “found to have been peppered with what is believed to be shotgun pellets” and spent shotgun cartridges were found nearby.

No one is believed to have been injured during the incident.

The area was cordoned off by police in the early hours of the morning but has now been reopened.

Anyone with information should officers at Loughton CID on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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Tower Hamlets boss Ade Abayomi wants his side to build on their superb FA Cup win at the weekend when they meet Sporting Bengal in the Mile End Stadium derby this weekend.

Omar Rowe hit a nine-minute hat-trick, with Yusuf Ali and Inesh Sumitharan on target in the second half to seal a convincing 5-1 win at Wivenhoe in the extra preliminary round.

That earned the club £1,500 in prize money a trip to Cockfosters next weekend, but Abayomi now has Sporting in his sights.

He said: “My chairman is not letting me rest on that! It’s just another game for me, because I have to keep their heads down and not let them get too much in the emotion part of the game.

“If they can do what we have been doing this season then we have a good chance, but I know they’re going to be ready for it.

“It’s a derby match, both sides want to win badly. I will let my boys know what it means to the club and the chairman and we’ll give it our best shot.”

Abayomi’s young side played Wivenhoe off the park with an impressive display of possession football that bodes well for their Essex Senior League campaign.

And the manager is hoping the youngsters can restore a feel-good factor at the club after a difficult 2014/15, when they were suspended for part of the campaign, and ended up in a lowly position.

He added; “Everybody knows what the club went through last season. The chairman has made a decision that we’re going to go with the youths.

“He took my advice on that and I’m very happy to see that it’s starting to work because you’ve got a lot of kids who have ambitions to play the game who are level-headed and if we can keep them for a while, who knows what might happen.

“We had a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old (at Wivenhoe), an average age of 21 out there. I’m really pleased with how we’ve done this season.

“Most of them have been with me for a long time, they know the way I think about the game, that’s the way I love the game to be played.

“Keeping the ball is very important and the technical aspect of the game will show more when you do that.

“There are a lot of talented players and young boys out there. We can only keep nurturing them and hopefully people will enjoy the way they play the game.”

For anyone who might be toying with the idea of going along to watch Hamlets in action, Abayomi promised: “You’re going to see good football. That one we can promise. Lose, win or draw, there will always be good football.

“Even the first game (at Takeley) when we lost we played really well. The more they keep doing that and creating chances, I can’t ask for more.”

And as for the trip to Cockfosters, who were 4-0 winners over Burnham at the weekend, Abayomi said: “We’re looking forward to it. We’re not going to get carried away, like I always say to them it’s one game at a time.

“We want to remain in the FA Cup as long as we can and hopefully if we show a good account of ourselves again we can snatch another result.”

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The most expensive borough to live in in the country, could be buying up houses in East Londonfor its homeless residents.

The royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where the average house price is £1.4 million, will spend £10m purchasing properties in different boroughs, and east London meets its’ criteria.

Havering Council’s deputy leader Cllr Damian White told the Recorder he has been lobbying the government to pass legislation which would keep the movers’ care costs with Kensington and Chelsea.

In an executive decision report on July 16, the royal borough explained the criteria, which was mainly price and proximity to Kensington and Chelsea.

The report acknowledges that the cheapest options are outside Greater London but says: “the preference is to try and place households within Greater London and the M25 corridor.

“The next best performing areas were in outer London, particularly in east London and in some areas of south London.”

The report states a “business plan has been created” on east and south London properties.

A Kensington and Chelsea Council spokesman refused to rule out buying properties in Havering, saying “we would like to purchase in Greater London”.

He added: “We do not know at the present time exactly where we will purchase properties, it will depend on the price, size, access to public transport, school, shops and local amenities.”

The spokesman refused to comment on the strain this could put on Havering’s services.

Cllr White said: “Most local authorities find themselves in increasingly hard position. It [the properties] is for people who are homeless through rising rents.

“What we can do and what is a very positive thing is trying to campaign for Ordinary Resident Rules.”

Cllr White explained this would mean when homeless residents from other borough were moved to Havering, their social services bill would stay with their original borough.

“We have met with the three members of parliament that cover Havering and have also lobbied government ministers when we have got the chance.”

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The Town Hall public gallery was packed with 80 campaigners from Spitalfields and Shoreditch witnessing the local authority’s planning committee unanimously rejecting the scheme during a late-night debate ending at 10.15pm.

It followed Sunday’s ‘human chain’ protest around Norton Folgate led by TV historian Dan Cruickshank when 500 protesters turned up for a joined-up picket demonstration.

British Land wanted to replace the art deco former Nicholls & Clark building fronting Norton Folgate, between Shoreditch High Street and Bishopsgate, together with a large swathe of land in the Elder Street conservation area behind.

The Spitalfields Trust had taken on one of the top 100 conglomerates on the London Stock Exchange and the City Corporation which has been buying up properties in the City Fringe neighbourhood, waiting for the planning green light to throw up two commercial towers reaching 14 and nine storeys high.

But Tower Hamlets wasn’t playing ball with Norton Folgate—the unique Georgian enclave was safe from the bulldozers after an impassioned plea by Spitalfields Trust.

“This site has been developing for nearly 2,000 years since Roman times,” founding trustee Oliver Leigh-Wood told planning committee members. “This proposal would simply erase that history.”

Councillors quizzed him to explain why many buildings remained empty.

“Don’t be fooled,” he warned. “It’s a deliberate City Corporation policy to leave them empty so they look derelict.

“Most are sound structures and are perfectly okay, which could easily be repaired.”

British Land’s commercially-led scheme did nothing to help tackle the East End’s chronic housing crisis, it was claimed. They were “minimising affordable housing”—just 11 low-cost homes in Fleur de Lis Street, for example, where the trust’s alternative proposal suggested 42.

The developers’ plans didn’t show enough of the impact of the towers, councillors felt, which concentrated largely on the street-level brickwork facias and gave little detail about inside the 19th century warehouses they assured would be preserved as part of the scheme.

It was enough to persuade the committee to reject the towers and “remodelling” Elder Street which the Trust feared would displace small businesses from “buildings that are in perfectly good condition”

They rejected a plea by British Land’s development director Mike Wiseman, who claimed: “There is nowhere in the area for business to grow.

“Everywhere is being converted to residential use—there’s a lack of commercial space in this area that’s really critical. Commercial space in these plans will help small start-ups.”

But a City Corporation surveyor’s report had, instead, revealed the Nicholls & Clark building fronting Norton Folgate would provide “large-scale offices for City occupiers”, councillors heard.

Campaigner Alex Foreshaw told the committee: “New innovation firms in reality will not be able to afford the rents.

“New ideas need old buildings—we have alternative proposals to use old buildings with greater public benefits from affordable accommodation.”

He added: “British Land’s proposals are damaging to the area and wastes the chance to provide something to benefit the community.”

Two members of the planning committee had earlier cycled round the area to see for themselves what effect the proposals would have. One came across Sunday’s ‘human chain’ demo involving 500 protesters led by TV historian Dan Cruickshank which made her realised the scale of feeling in the area.

The planning committee’s rejection was summed up by Cllr John Pierce: “There would be substantial harm to the conservation area. Conservation belongs to the people.”

The British Land delegation walked out immediately after the rejection, with a director from English Conservation, which supported the developers, getting into a rant with Spitalfields Trust in the council chamber before storming off.

The campaigners later toasted their victory in the bar next to the Town Hall.

But campaign co-ordinator Oliver Leigh-Wood warned the fight wasn’t over.

“I’ve not the slightest doubt British Land will continue fighting,” he told the East London Advertiser. “We’ve won a battle in a war—but it’s not over.

“British Land stands to make an absolute fortune out of the deal with the Corporation of London and I suspect they’ll appeal and go as quickly as they can to see London Mayor Boris Johnson.”

The trust, which has been fighting British Land on and off since 1977, has been given a £10,000 gift to continue the fight—but Leigh-Wood observes that “it’s peanuts compared to what British Land is throwing at this fight”.

The threat isn’t just about “encroachment by the City” into the East End, he fears, but up and down the country where “any conservation area is going to get attacked by big property developers with deep pockets”.

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Two men and a woman made their way to safety in the street from the blaze that broke out on the first floor of a mid-terraced house at Manchester Grove, Cubitt Town, at 9am, before emergency fire crews arrived.

The blaze destroyed half the first floor and caused smoke damage to other parts of the two-storey house—but no-one was injured.

Crews from Millwall, Poplar, Shadwell and Plaistow fire-stations got the blaze under control in an hour. Fire Brigade investigators are now looking into the cause.

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